An ice rink in the middle of downtown Miami is a bizarre but very real sight at the InterContinental, whose holiday ice rink has returned this year. As the only outdoor and bayfront one in South Florida, it brings a true feeling of wintertime to the Magic City and gives skaters a place to take their skills from the pavement to the ice despite summer-like temperatures. Even though the Kendall Ice Arena is open year-round, this little slice of the north gives locals a genuine feel for what it's like ice skating in open spaces — think of it as our mini Rockefeller Center rink.
The hotel introduced the rink in 2011, and general manager Robert Hill says he's excited to see its return. "It was a really great success back then," he says, "but because the hotel embarked on a major renovation, our focus for the last few years has been on that and not on the rink. But I think it's a great way to create a holiday tradition and take part in something that many people take advantage of up north, and since it was such a fun event, we knew we had to bring it back."
The installation of the rink — dubbed "Miami on Ice" — began a week before Thanksgiving. It's located on the hotel’s patio overlooking Biscayne Bay. It's situated under a large tent to shield it from rain and humidity and to keep the ice cool throughout the day. Small pipes run under the rink and spread a cooling gel. Hill describes the system as something similar to the pipes on the back of a refrigerator.
"We first layered water on top of the chilled pipes until we had about two inches of ice," he says. "That's good enough to skate on, but throughout the rink's time, we will continue to layer more ice on top."
Each day, old ice is scraped off the top and replaced with a fresh layer of water, creating smoother and thicker ice. Hill estimates that by January, the rink will have four to five inches of ice.
"We've had a great response so far," he says. "It provides a holiday activity that you traditionally see in a colder climate and makes it a tradition in Miami too."
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About 60 people can fit on the rink at one time, but Hill says a steady flow of people circulates on and off the rink all day, which avoids overcrowding.
"I think the best part about having this ice rink is it's something you expect in New York in Central Park or Rockefeller Center," he says. "But now we have it here too. It really brings a feeling of the holiday spirit to Miami."
Miami on Ice
Noon to 11 p.m. through January 10. Admission, which includes skate rental, costs $15 per hour for adults and $10 per hour for children 12 and younger.